Don't Wrestle with Pigs

Don’t wrestle with a pig, because you both get dirty but the pig loves it.

I think of stress as the pig.

Stress is cumulative and can quietly push you to a breaking point…often without you noticing it is getting that bad. And it’s not a reflection on what you’re made of or how strong you are. You simply start wrestling with something that starts becoming bigger than you are.

Stress loves to wrestle and is great at it.

Enormous amounts of work, constant deadlines and non-stop problem solving can create a perfect storm of tunnel vision, stress and burnout (also, depression and anxiety). Your responsibilities keep growing and the stakes keep getting higher. Your stress management skills need to follow suit and upgrade too, but who has time to learn how to do that?

To be fair, I’m a fan of both stress and pessimism to a degree. A certain amount of good stress gives us the adrenaline and focus we need to continue being successful. And a certain dose of pessimism even gives us the attention to the detail we need to pay attention to the things we need to be paying attention to.

Unfortunately, for most of us at this point of our careers and business, our stress gauge is broken and we lose our sense of that helpful line. Our stress gauge simply needs to be recalibrated.

Here are a couple of tools to help us do that.

The Wisdom to Know the Difference. First, there are two types of stress in general: Good stress and bad or futile stress. Good stress has to do with things you can do something about, or work toward doing something about. Bad or futile stress involve things that are out of your hands. It’s is necessary to cultivate the wisdom and actively identify the difference between these two.

Once you categorize your stress, you need to take appropriate steps. For good stress, you need take the action it is calling for. That is how good stress was intended to operate in us. It was intended to prompt an action for you to take. Once taken, your body is designed to close the stress loop and dissipate.

With bad stress, when there is really nothing you can do and all the stress is doing is freaking you out, you need to let go of it. Easier said than done, I know. But you need to recognize that it is in the futile stress category and break your habit of worrying about it.

Sometimes people think that worrying about it is doing something to help the situation. But it’s not. It’s a habit and for some borders on an addiction.

So the first tool is to increase your awareness of the two categories. Take action on the good stresses and let go of your futile stresses.

Also, Connect to the outside world. In person, not online. The best antidote to dealing with stress is to do something social, connect with other human beings. A common tendency for those feeling a ton of stress is to hole themselves up, nose to the grindstone, and forget about everything else.

This coping habit of isolation accelerates the negative consequences of stress. Connecting with people, on the other hand, even for short periods of time will help you get through times of stress.

Start categorizing your stress and reaching out to people today, even if you aren’t overwhelmed. Remember after all, “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” Thanks Archilochus.


If you’re the DIY, super busy, dip-your-toe-in-before-diving type and would like to overcome your anxiety in the comfort, convenience and privacy of your own home, check out my book.